In 2017, books with a strong female protagonists were super popular: Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Liv Constantine’s The Last Mrs. Parrish are just two of the books that had everyone in love with a strong female lead last year. This year, we are about to see another wave of bold women in literature and one of those will come from Andrea Dunlop, author of Losing the Light: A Novel, and the novella Broken Bay. She Regrets Nothing: A Novel, is Dunlop’s latest work that combines complex characters, intrigue and the lights and sounds of the Big Apple.
Leila Lawrence from the quiet town of Grosse Point, Michigan, becomes an orphan at the age of 23. At her mother’s funeral, three of her wealthy, albeit estranged cousins from New York arrive; the three are from the wealthy dynasty that her father had once belonged to, and left before his death. Now, Leila wants more. Two years later, she’s left her job, fiancé and entire life behind, and moved straight into Manhattan, determined to claim what’s rightfully hers by birth. As her determination to have and belong to the decadent world of her cousins, secrets of her family’s estrangement become revealed. Scandals, secrets, and the dark lengths that people will go to for what they want are cunningly weaved together in this master of a story.
Booktrib was able to catch up with Andrea Dunlop, to talk about plot inspiration, New York City, and what makes a good book great.
Booktrib: The plots that you have in your books sometimes appear simple at first, and very quickly become anything but – filled with intrigue, complex scenarios, tricky relationships and such fantastic explorations of people and psychology. Where do you get inspiration behind these plots?
AD: Wow, thank you! I always start with an idea of where the book is going, but one of the most fun parts of the writing process for me is discovering where my characters are going to take me. I often think the plot is going to go one way, but when I arrive at that turn, it goes differently. Then, which each successive revision, I go deeper into what’s going on. Certainly I get inspiration from events in my own life and people I’ve met, but mostly as jumping off points. For me, each novel very quickly become its own universe.
Booktrib: Laila Lawrence is a very different character, I think, than a lot of characters we’ve seen so far; she’s incredibly driven, bold, and manipulative. Did you have Laila’s full character in mind when you started developing the book, or did her darker aspects come out as you were writing?
AD: Laila’s character and the decisions she makes are definitely what drive the story forward, though I wouldn’t say she’s the heroine of the story in the tradition sense. Again, the inspiration for her was sparked by someone I knew in real life, but she quickly became her own character on the page. Laila makes decisions I would never make in my own life, which made her really fun to write. I actually grew more sympathetic to her as I was writing the book. She’s a complicated woman and definitely has a dark side, but I think readers will find themselves rooting for her, even if they feel uncomfortable about it.
Booktrib: While Laila and her cousins really are the central characters, I feel like this is also such a great homage to New York City as well. I know you lived in NYC for a time – was there anything in particular about the city that you felt you just had to put in the book, based on your own experiences living there?
AD: Oh goodness, everything. I lived in New York for six years in my twenties and it was a formative experience. Manhattan is so different from Seattle—where I grew up and live now—and there are so many of my own observations and experiences that ended up in the book. New York is such a culture shock when you move there from the West Coast, in terms of the way people act, dress, live, and the huge role that money and class play in everything. I worked in publishing when I lived there, so I had fun writing about Liberty’s literary world, and I definitely met lots of wacky rich people and social climbers who served as the inspirations for the Lawrence clan. New York is a place that’s at once so magical and full of possibilities. but at the same time just absolutely ruthless. I’m very glad I lived there when I was in my twenties and had the energy to do it, but I’m also very glad I left. She Regrets Nothing is my love-hate letter to the city.
Booktrib: She Regrets Nothing has gotten great reviews, and it’s easy to see why! This book is dark, sexy, and seriously addicting. What do you think is the key to writing a great, un-put-down-able book like this one?
AD: Thank you! Honestly, I feel like the key is revising a book enough times to get the plot as tight as possible. I always start out with sprawling manuscripts that are far too slow in places and then trim and tighten. It also helps that I have an amazing editor, Sarah Cantin, who collaborated closely with me on this one. I also think taking the time to fully develop the characters is a must; a plot can have all the clever twists and turns in the world, but if the reader isn’t invested in the characters, they won’t care.
Booktrib: Finally, what’s the one book/character/line you wish you could have created?
AD: Great question! There’s an amazing passage in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn about being “the Cool Girl” which is just the most incisive, hilarious, brilliant thing I’ve read in recent memory. Amy Dunne is one of the great anti-heroines of our era—talk about a bad girl you root for!—and in this one passage she single-handedly defines and dismantles this misogynist paradox that every woman is aware of but that I’ve never seen quite so perfectly described. I don’t know if this part of the book hit male readers as hard, but I feel like every woman who read it just thought: yes!
“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”
She Regrets Nothing: A Novel will be available on February 6th. For more information on the author, please visit her website at andreadunlop.net.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrea Dunlop is the author of Losing the Light, which was named as a Best Book of 2016 by Redbook Magazine, the novella Broken Bay, and the forthcoming novel She Regrets Nothing. She lives with her husband in Edmonds, Washington, where she works as a social media consultant
Want to be a published writer? Enter our writing contest, where you could become a BookTrib Contributor! Deadline for submissions is January 31, 2018.